LGBTQ Game Archive documents history of queer video games

Queer Video Games GayBlade

This image shows a screenshot from “GayBlade,” one of the earliest LGBTQ video games. The 1992 action role-playing game lets players fight homophobic characters. Photo: LGBTQ Game Archive.

“Caper in the Castro” — the earliest known LGBTQ  video game — is an old fashioned murder mystery.

The player controls the movements of Tracker McDyke, a lesbian private investigator who must find her kidnapped friend and drag queen, Tessy LaFemme.

C.M. Ralph created the game in 1989.

“Caper in the Castro” and its historical significance is included as part of the LGBTQ Game Archive at Temple University.

The archive, which lists 1,290 games, is the only archive in the world dedicated to the history of LGBTQ video game content.

‘The Last of Us Part II’ showcases queer characters

The Strong museum, located in Rochester, N.Y., and home to the World Video Game Hall of Fame, has received a copy of the LGBTQ Game Archive. The comprehensive material includes press articles, websites, blogs, web forums, videos, images, and character descriptions.

“This collection is a significant resource for anyone studying gender, sexuality, or LGBTQ representation in games throughout history and allows the museum to more fully tell the story of the video game industry,” Julia Novakovic, archivist at The Strong, said in a statement.

The collection includes information and digital copies of “Caper in the Castro” and “GayBlade,” a 1992 action role-playing game about fighting homophobic characters.

The collection also includes several popular game series, such as “The Legend of Zelda,” “Final Fantasy,” “Super Mario Brothers,” “Fallout,” and “The Sims.”

“From hidden subtext and problematic storylines, to games which let players make their own decisions about a character’s sexuality, queer representation in video games has made immense strides within the past few decades,” Novakovic said.

Gaymers spend more on video games than heterosexual players

Video games is a huge industry. In 2019, video games in the United States generated more than $35 billion in revenue, according to the Entertainment Software Association. That’s more revenue than music and movies combined.

Earlier this year, “The Last of Us Part II” was released and made history. From developer Naughty Dog, “The Last of Us Part II” is the most successful high budget video game with queer characters who are center stage in the narrative. It sold more than 4 million copies in just three days, Playstation said, making it one of the fastest-selling games in the company’s history.

“Caper in the Castro” was originally released as “Charity Ware,” meaning anyone who downloaded the game was asked to donate money to an AIDS organization of their choosing.

Ralph, who had relocated from Southern California to the Bay Area, wanted to give back to the LGBTQ community that had embraced her and her partner and honor the memory of approximately 90% of their friends who had died from AIDS related illnesses.

LGBTQ Game Archive was established in 2015 by Adrienne Shaw, an associate professor of media studies and production at Temple University.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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